Black teens who were victims of a knife attack had guns drawn on them by deputies, lawyer says
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies detained three teenagers at gunpoint last week after bystanders called 911 to report that the teens were being attacked by a man with a knife, an attorney for one of the teen’s families said Monday.
“I just can’t believe that the only way to handle this was to approach it with guns drawn,” said civil rights attorney Robert Brown, who specializes in cases of police misconduct.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a videotaped statement on Monday that he had “concerns regarding the tactics employed” and that the incident was under investigation. On Tuesday, the department wrote on Twitter that it would be conducting an in-depth review of its patrol rifle deployment policy and training.
The teens, two of them Black, were sitting with their skateboards at a bus stop Friday along Soledad Canyon Road in Santa Clarita when a man approached and asked if they had any crack, Brown said. When they told the man to leave them alone, he pulled out a knife and began thrusting it at them, prompting the teens to raise their skateboards as shields, Brown said.
Multiple people called 911 to report the incident, but when deputies arrived they treated the teens as criminals, Brown said.
Brown is representing the family of Tammi Collins, whose 16-year-old son was one of those detained. Collins posted an 11-minute video of the tense encounter to Instagram on Saturday. More than 260,000 people had watched it as of Tuesday night.
Warning: The video below contains profanity.
In the video, at least three sheriff’s deputies can be seen approaching the bus stop with their guns drawn and pointed at the three teens. They instruct each teen to walk backward toward them; one is made to kneel on the ground. All three teens are handcuffed and put into squad cars.
“During all of this time, you have bystanders telling them that, in fact, the teens are the victims,” Brown said. “And the deputies don’t seem to be quite so responsive.”
As a small crowd gathers on the sidewalk, multiple people can be heard shouting, “It was the other guy,” and telling the deputies the suspect had fled down the street. A woman who identifies herself as the manager of a nearby Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant can be heard saying she called 911 to report that the teens were being chased through the restaurant’s parking lot by a man with a knife.
“I told your sergeant who was the problem and what was going on,” she tells the deputies. “For you guys to act this way is ridiculous.”
She asks at another point: “Do you understand what this looks like?”
In response, the deputies can be heard saying they actually detained the teens in response to a different call, one reporting someone being assaulted with a skateboard, which they say is considered a deadly weapon.
“A call for service was received regarding a felony assault, and the deputies detained those alleged to be involved,” Villanueva said Monday. “The matter is currently being investigated.”
It wasn’t clear whether the man who allegedly lunged at the teens with a knife was also detained.
The teens were held in the squad cars for about 30 minutes and then released with no charges, Brown said. He is investigating the incident for a possible lawsuit but says no decision has been made. He said the teens and their families were deeply shaken, especially by what could have happened.
“I just thank God that we didn’t have a tragic or fatal outcome to this,” Brown said. “If in what was a very highly emotionally charged situation anyway, where you have these gentlemen who had just been attacked by someone with a knife, if they would have panicked or one of the officers would have panicked, this discussion could be taking a much different turn.”
Collins and her son were not available to comment.
“This is something my son and his friends will never forget,” Collins wrote on Instagram. “I’m still wonder[ing] how will I ever help my son recover from this traumatic experience.”
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